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While Jimmy Nickerson’s name is a somewhat new addition to the harness racing race programs at Saratoga Casino Hotel, the veteran trainer is certainly not new to the sport of harness racing. A native of Maine, the avid golf enthusiast came to New York a little over a decade ago when he and his current wife Heidi Rohr relocated their stable to a farm in Middletown. From that farm, Nickerson and Rohr’s horses competed at a host of tracks and the Rohr trainees could regularly be found racing at Yonkers with others making the trek to Pennsylvania or the much closer trip to Monticello. Though they raced members of their stable at several tracks, Rohr and Nickerson often came to Saratoga Casino Hotel and have always enjoyed success here. In fact, back in 2009, Rohr was named the Peerless McGrath Award winner at Saratoga, an award that recognizes the track’s top breakthrough trainer for that season. That wouldn’t be the last honor bestowed to Rohr either. After a move to Saratoga and a few more solid local seasons, Rohr was ready to take over the top spot. In 2013, she was named Trainer of the Year just one season before winning her first training title at Saratoga. Rohr finished up the ’14 campaign with the most wins among local conditioners despite still racing at multiple tracks in the northeast. Rohr was named Horsewoman of the Year in ’13 and ’14 as well after establishing herself as a force at the Spa. Rohr and Nickerson managed their stable together for more than a decade before Rohr backed out of the day-to-day activities of the barn following the birth of their daughter Emery. At that point, Nickerson officially took over the reins and has continued to enjoy success. After finishing last season in a tie for eighth place among local trainers, Nickerson is having a terrific 2019 campaign thus far. Heidi Rohr Despite the fact that he brings numerous trainees to Massachusetts to compete at Plainridge during the week, Nickerson came into last week’s action at the Spa in a tie for second among local trainers in ’19. Thriving with a stable that is notably pacer-heavy, Nickerson has done his damage this season despite not necessarily having one or two standouts do the majority of his barn’s winning. One level where we have seen Nickerson and Rohr trainees thrive in their now decade-plus at Saratoga is in the Opens, mostly for pacers. Rohr’s Bell On Wheels was named Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year back in 2013 and ever since then, the husband-wife led stable has featured numerous top distaffers who have thrived against the track’s top lady pacers throughout the years. The most recent Nickerson trainee to compete and thrive in the Fillies and Mares Open is Sandy Sue. The four year old mare came to town last month out of the stable of the top trainer in North America. Ron Burke has been the winningest trainer in harness racing the last several years and sent Sandy Sue to Nickerson following a stint in the Midwest. In her local debut, Sandy Sue finished second after getting a pocket trip in the $15,000 Open for the ladies. After two straight ho-hum tries, she started from the rail in final feature in the month of May. Leading driver Billy Dobson, who has sat behind the speedy mare in each of her local starts, secured a journey on the front end in that race. Sandy Sue went coast-to-coast and added her name to the lengthy list of distaffers to score Open wins for Nickerson and Rohr in the last decade at Saratoga. Last Thursday afternoon, the up-and-comer was assigned the outside post in a field of seven in the Fillies and Mares Open as she looked to prove her first feature victory was no fluke. Dobson was again aggressive in the early going and Sandy Sue overcame her outside post to settle in on the lead in a fast first quarter paced in 27 seconds flat. While racing with odds of 5-1 attached to her, Sandy Sue led every step of the way on Thursday and held off late surges in the stretch by two rivals before stopping the timer in 1:53.3. The win was one of three on the afternoon for Nickerson-trained mares each of which had Dobson piloting. The three-win afternoon for Nickerson was enough to vault him into second in the trainer standings and while his stable has thrived with mares this year, Jimmy has enjoyed plenty of success in the Saturday Open Pace as well. In 2017, Rohr and Nickerson won the regular Saturday feature five times with four different horses. Veteran pacer Deetzy was the only two-time winner out of the stable in the Open, scoring once in a lifetime best 1:50 flat and subsequently was a nominee for Pacer of the Year in ’17. And it wasn’t the last we’d see Deetzy thrive among the track’s top pacers. Last season, Deetzy accounted for three of the four Open Pace wins for Nickerson at Saratoga as the then six year old utilized a blend of early speed and closing ability to put together another six-figure campaign, his second straight. Still one of his stable’s top stars in ‘19, the well-traveled Deetzy returned to the Spa to compete in the final Open Pace in the month of May. He finished third in a 1:50.2 mile and thus was the favorite in the $15,000 feature contested the following week. Driver Shawn Gray powered the seven year old out to the early lead, a lead the classy pacer would never relinquish before stopping the timer in 1:51.3. It was just another win in an Open for Nickerson who has rattled off such victories for more than the last decade at the Spa. Though his stable does send out some trotters from time to time, the barn seems to be very pacer-heavy spanning the levels from occasionally the bottom to more commonly the top. And though his stable splits its starts between Saratoga and other tracks, with Open Pacers like Sandy Sue and Deetzy leading the way, Jimmy Nickerson could well wind up back at the top of the trainer standings at the Spa just as his wife Heidi Rohr was just a few years ago. Live racing takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday starting at 12 Noon and on Saturday evening beginning at 6:45pm. By Mike Sardella Special to the Saratogian Reprinted with permission of The Record

Thursday afternoon brought about the first installment of the Fillies and Mares Open for the 2018 harness racing season at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Seven distaffers squared off for a purse of $12,000 through the snowflakes that fell throughout the matinee card. The Heidi Rohr-trained Tempus Seelster (Big Jim) was the even money favorite in the feature and driver Billy Dobson perched the five year old in the pocket spot in the early going. Longshot Mydelight Bluechip (Ben McNeil) cut the mile at odds of 17-1 but when Tempus Seelster popped the pocket after pacing 5/8 of a mile tracking the upset-minded leader, she meant business. Tempus Seelster cruised to the Open victory, stopping the timer in 1:56.1 over a track labeled 'good.' Mydelight Bluechip held second while Media Queen N (Mark Beckwith) earned the show spot. The exacta and triple in the race, led by the even money favorite, paid $35.60 and $114, respectively. Live racing resumes on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee beginning at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Deetzy (Jereme's Jet) won his first harness racing 'Open Pace' at Saratoga Casino Hotel last month. The Heidi Rohr-trained pacer came from the back of the pack in a race that featured blistering fast fractions in lap one. In that start, Deetzy scored in a career-best 1:50 with Billy Dobson in the sulky. Following back-to-back third place finishes in the $18,000 feature, Deetzy was the public's betting favorite on Saturday night and Dobson wasted no time setting sail with the five year old pacer who is in the midst of his career year. Deetzy posted fast first half fractions of 27 and 55.1 before cruising through three quarters in 1:23. Pocket sitter Rocknroll Wildcats (Jimmy Devaux) made his debut in the Open on Saturday and wound up second best to the 6-5 favorite Deetzy who stopped the timer in 1:50.2 in what was the second Open score in his young career. Dancin Yankee (Mark Beckwith) hit the board for the fourth consecutive week in the Open by earning the show spot. Deetzy moved over the quarter million dollar mark in career earnings with the victory, which was his fifth of the season. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee beginning at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Calvin B (Chris Lems) would capture the harness racing featured Open Pace ($11,400) at Vernon Downs on Saturday (October 7). The favorite Oh My Joepa (John MacDonald) would take the lead just before the first quarter. Putting up early fractions :26.1, :55.3. Calvin B (Bettor's Delight), who is owned by Delores Smiel and trained by Heidi Rohr, went first over and took control just before three-quarters. He would put them away in the stretch to win in 1:50.0. Geez Joe (Atlee Bender) would charge late and come up to finish second. Dreams Beachboy (Jimmy Whittemore) would take third. Calvin B ($10.80) would win for the seventh time this season and won for the 28th time in his career. Lems would also get a win with Mac's Black Hat ($4.60). Leading driver John MacDonald would win three on the night. He got victories with Cam's Lucky Sam ($2.60), A Fool For Mark ($2.80), and Yule Love It ($10.00). Live Action returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (October 13) starting at 6:45 p.m. For more information please go to John Horne for Vernon Downs

The fractions in Saturday's harness racing open pace were like those rarely seen before at Saratoga Casino Hotel. An early speed duel resulted in a first quarter in 26.1 and a half in 54.1. The Heidi Rohr-trained Deetzy (Jereme's Jet) took advantage of the battle and committed first over approaching the half. Softened by the early fractions, the top tandem faltered and Deetzy pounced. Accelerating into a big lead around the final turn, Deetzy paced away from his rivals before stopping the timer in a dazzling 1:50. It was the second fastest mile of the year at Saratoga, second only to Luck Be Withyou's score in 1:49.2 in July. The time marked a new lifetime best for Deetzy, who was driven to the win in the $18,000 Open by Billy Dobson. Somewhere Fancy (Jim Devaux) followed the top one's cover and wound up as the runner-up on Saturday night while Dancin Yankee (Mark Beckwith), who is the track record holder owning a 1:48.4 win from back in 2014, earned the show spot. Deetzy was dismissed at odds of 7-1 on Saturday and led an exacta and triple that paid $132 and $922, respectively. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a 12:15pm first post. Mike Sardella

Arsenic (Bettor's Delight) has been a favorite of the betting public. The Heidi Rohr-trained pacer had been the top choice of the bettors in six consecutive starts competing at four different harness racing tracks heading into his try in Saturday night's feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Arsenic was once again the favorite on Saturday and would wind up first over in the $11,250 feature. Billy Dobson piloted the four year old pacer as he cruised past the leader before opening up a big lead. Arsenic prevailed by better than three lengths in a mile paced in 1:52.3. The win was one of four on the card for Dobson who holds a big lead in the local driver standings. The Arsenic victory was one of three on the night for Rohr whose Beachy Dream prevailed earlier in the night. Her Burkes Bandit scored in the evening's finale to complete the training triple. Live racing resumes on Tuesday night at Saratoga with a first post time set for 7:05pm. Mike Sardella

Givenupdreaming (If I Can Dream) paced the fastest mile of the year to date on Saturday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Heidi Rohr trainee was one of five participants in the $13,000 Open Pace and with first half fractions of 27 and 55.3 to set the table, Givenupdreaming moved first over and powered up to take over the lead after three quarters in 1:23. The six year old standout cruised away in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:50.3, the fastest clocking for any race in the 2017 campaign at the Spa. Somewhere Fancy (Billy Dobson) followed the winner's cover and wound up as the runner-up in the feature while Panocchio (Gerry Mattison) came on for third. It was the sixth victory of the season for Givenupdreaming and the first win in the local Open for the Rohr trainee who was piloted to the Saturday score by Stephane Bouchard. Live racing this holiday weekend with matinees scheduled for both Sunday and Monday afternoons both beginning at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Milky Way Rae (American Ideal) had little difficulty handling the step up in the harness racing company on Friday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Heidi Rohr trainee was coming off a win in the conditional ranks when she stepped up into the $13,000 Fillies and Mares Open on Friday night. Billy Dobson has become the regular pilot for the four year old mare whose early speed is her best asset. Flashing that speed in the feature, Milky Way Rae made the lead in a 26.4 first quarter and sizzled through a half in 55.4. Feeling just mild pressure before reaching the top of the stretch, the talented distaffer faced a host of challengers in the lane but proved to be up to the task. Milky Way Rae stopped the timer in a seasonal best 1:53.1 to record her third win of the season, two of which came in the Open. Godiva Seelster (Shawn Gray) was the runner-up in the Friday feature while Her Own Land (Mark Beckwith) closed for third behind the 4-1 shot winner. Dobson and Rohr teamed up for another victory on the card as pacing mare Keene Olivia (Always A Virgin) recorded her second consecutive win despite being parked the entire first half of the mile before drawing off to prevail in 1:53.4. Live racing continues on Saturday evening with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella  

Milky Way Rae (American Ideal) went coast to coast in the Friday harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Heidi Rohr-trained mare was dropping out of the Filly and Mare Open in which she finished third last week and was the 2-5 betting favorite in Friday's $9,500 feature for distaffers. Milky Way Rae moved out to the early lead in a fast 27 second opening quarter and the four year old mare never looked back. With Billy Dobson in the sulky, Milky Way Rae stopped the timer in a seasonal best 1:53.3, the fastest of her two seasonal scores. A winner in the Open back in March, Milky Way Rae has consistently hit the board this year against the track's top mares. Bettorhaveanother (Frank Coppola Jr) sat the pocket to the winner on Friday and finished second while longshot Weekend Getaway (Jimmy Devaux) closed to be third. The win was one of two on the card for Rohr and Dobson who also secured a victory with heavily favored Keene Olivia (Always A Virgin) earlier in the night. Live racing continues on Saturday evening at the Spa with a first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - A pocketed Never Say Never N (Jason Bartlett, $7.10) out-tripped 2-5 favorite Awesomeness (Scott Zeron) Tuesday night (March 28th), winning Yonkers Raceway's 'sloppy' $61,800 harness racing final of the Sagamore Hill Pacing Series. The annual Teddy Roosevelt-A-Thon was open to 3- and 4-year-old pacers (guys only, girls went at in the Petticoat) who are/were non-winners of four races or $40,000 through last Dec. 1. Leaving from post position No. 2, Never Say Never N tracked pole-sitting Prejudice (Jordan Stratton) from the outset. Meanwhile, Awesomeness-from post No. 5-tried to leave, but was wrangled back into a fourth-hole. That trio were the only ones in the final who had each won both of their series starts (one scheduled leg was snowed out). After early intervals of :28.1 of :58.2, Awesomeness was out and moving, trying to stomp out Prejudice in and out of a 1:26.2 three-quarters. Prejudice owned a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, but was surrounded. Awesomeness was resilient, but Never Say Never N had the shorter route and the bigger envelope. The latter whipped the former by a head in a moist 1:54.2. Prejudice was third, beaten a neck, with Sure Fired Bet (Yannick Gingras) and Artmagic (Brent Holland) settling for the remainder. Ideal Son (George Brennan), Wishiwasagigolo (Dan Dube, coupled with Prejudice) and Stirling Escort (Matt Kakaley) finished off the order. "He's quick and fits this track very well," Bartlett said. "Ever since I qualified him, I've been impressed with him. I knew Jordan's horse (Prejudice) would take me to the lane, and it was up to him from there. For second choice Never Say Never N, a 4-year-old Down Under son of Bettor's Delight co-owned by Gerard Stuchbury and Thomas Lazzaro and trained by Heidi Rohr, he's now 5-for-5 this season. The exacta paid $20.20, with the triple returning $30.80. "His best stride has always been near the wire, but sometimes he shuts himself off, so they added a mini bit tonight and it helped." As for Awesomeness, whose own win streak ended at six, "We lost a lot of round in the last turn and Jason (Never Say Never N) was able to get the jump," Zeron said. "(Awesomeness) was out two turns and really running in, so I can't fault the effort." A $30,000 series consolation was won by Magical Cowboy (Gingras, $5.40, part of entry) in 1:55.2. Frank Drucker

Harness racing driver Billy Dobson and trainer Heidi Rohr teamed up for three wins on the Thursday card at Saratoga Casino Hotel including a victory in the matinee's feature. Milky Way Rae (American Ideal) got a pocket ride for the second consecutive week in the $12,000 Fillies and Mares Open but this week rolled out of the two-hole and pounced on her rivals en route to her first victory of the year. For the four year old Rohr trainee, it was the first ever win in the local ladies' feature. Milky Way Rae paid $8.10 as she bested Elm Grove Inarush (Pat Curtin) and Annabeth (Mark Beckwith) who finished second and third, respectively. The win for Milky Way Rae was the third on the afternoon for the Dobson-Rohr combo who is off to a big start to the 2017 season as they scored victories earlier in the day with pacers Southwind Marilyn and Silouette. Live racing continues on Friday with the first evening program of the year. First post time is set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Bettor Rock On N (Bettor's Delight) came from well off the pace to secure the victory in the first feature of the 2017 harness racing season at Saratoga Casino Hotel on the year's opening day card. The Heidi Rohr trainee was sitting last, nearly a dozen lengths off of the lead at the half mile pole in Sunday's $12,000 Open Pace, but the patience of driver Bruce Aldrich Jr. paid off as the front end started to give way and Bettor Rock On N started to pick off horses one by one in the final quarter. A late surge at the wire secured the victory for the eight year old pacer who was a recent addition to the Rohr stable. Bettor Rock On N stopped the timer in 1:53.3 as he nosed out the favored E Z Noah (Billy Dobson) in the final stride. Paying $7.50 to win, Bettor Rock On N prevailed for the second time in '17 after securing a victory at Yonkers earlier in the month. E Z Noah had to settle for second while Roethblissberger (Mark Beckwith) earned the show spot in his local debut. The exacta and triple returned $24.60 and $96.50, respectively. Live racing continues on Monday afternoon with another matinee that is scheduled to kick off at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

The festive and well-attended harness racing evening was made even better for Thomas Dillon, when his horse, Rock Me Baby, won the $120,000 Courageous Lady at Northfield Park. The Courageous Lady was a series of firsts for Rock Me Baby. It was the first time she had raced for Dillon. He purchased her just two weeks ago for $82,000 at the Harrisburg Sale. It was also Rock Me Baby's first start for trainer Heidi Rohr and the first time that Tim Tetrick has driven the filly. Rock Me Baby left off the gate. She initially sat in third, but was sent to the outside approaching the quarter. Once she made the lead about the quarter-pole, Rock Me Baby never experienced an anxious moment the remainder of the mile. She posted fractions of: 26.4, 54.4, 1:23 and 1:52. "We had to go a pretty big first half," explained Tetrick,"but I was able to give her a breather around the turn and she was really strong to the finish." The clocking was a stakes record for the Courageous Lady and equaled Northfield Park's track record for sophomore filly pacers. "I was happy to get to drive her," said Tetrick. "When they called me to ask if I would come here (Northfield), I was like absolutely!" "I love traveling around to these big races offered at places like Northfield and being able to compete with nice horses. I'm just glad to be a part of all this." Completing the field were Mother Of Art, LA Delight, Yankee Moonshine, Dime A Dance, Bellatricks, Free Show and Time On My Hands. Rock Me Baby (Rock N Roll Heaven-Lover Of Art-Artsplace) now has four wins in 21 lifetime starts. Saturday's victory increased her career bankroll to $164,228. She returned $5.40 to win. Ayers Ratliff

Bet You (Bettor's Delight) went back to back in the Saturday feature as the young harness racing pacer came from well off the pace to prevail in the $16,000 Open Pace at Saratoga on Saturday night. After winning his first local Open last week, the Heidi Rohr-trained Bet You got away fifth in the six horse feature and as the fractions were hot on the lead, the rejuvenated pacer sat patiently before making his move in the final quarter. Bet You emerged from a scramble in the stretch with a victory in 1:52.3. Border Control A (Jim Devaux) came from last to finish second while Lettucerockthem A (Billy Dobson) earned the show spot. The four year old Bet You hadn't factored in his first three tries in the local Open but has now rattled off consecutive victories to bring his seasonal win total to ten. Bet You, who was driven to the score in the feature by Stephane Bouchard, paid $13.00 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $84 and $528, respectively. Bet You is owned by Tom Dillon of Anson, ME. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time of 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Bet You (Bettor's Delight) worked hard early and it paid off late in the Saturday harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Heidi Rohr-trained pacer has been a winning machine this season out of town but recorded his first local victory of the year in the $18,000 Open Pace. Stephane Bouchard urged Bet You at the start and powered the four year old out to the early lead, working hard to get to the top in 27.1. The veteran reinsman gave Bet You a very effective second quarter breather and after reaching the half in 57 seconds fended off several challengers before hanging on to win by the slimmest of margins in 1:54. Sassy Hanover (Billy Dobson) sat the pocket to Bet You and closed quickly in the passing lane to be within a nose at the wire. Longshot Ideal Magic (Jim Devaux) earned the show spot. Bet You was one of three co-favorites at odds of 2-1 in the seven horse Open and started an exacta and triple that paid $29.60 and $126.50, respectively. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee that begins at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Vernon, N.Y. -- Calvin B ($3.40) did not disappoint at odds-on in Saturday (September 24) evening's featured $9,100 top-level Miracle Mile pacing handicap at Vernon Downs, sustaining a first-over press to circle the harness racing field for a 1:51.4 triumph.   Chris Lems settled the 6-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding at the back of the quintet early before angling off the pegs with just less than five-eighths of the mile remaining. Calvin B advanced the instant he was switched first-over, working into a pressing role with three-eighths to go and dueling down pacesetter Major War (Fern Paquet, Jr.) in mid-stretch. Calvin B would accelerate clear while driven and evade a late charge from Modern Gesture (Claude Huckabone, III), who worked around the tiring pacesetter to save second off his pocket trip. No Monkeys Allowed (Truman Gale) mounted belated gains from the back to take third.   Calvin B prevailed by three-quarters of a length in the end for owner Dolores Smiel and trainer Heidi Rohr. His seventh seasonal win increased his career tally to 21.   In the $5,000 C.K.G. Billings event for amateur drivers, owner-trainer-driver Tony Ciuffetelli sprung a double-digit upset with Aventure ($23.60), rallying belatedly off live cover to narrowly collar 6-5 favorite Rocket Master (Hannah Miller) in 1:57. The 5-year-old Muscle Mass gelding earned the 15th win of his career.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Thursday (September 29) evening; first post is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

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